Jun 30, 2015
Well, that was all a long time ago. I left this blog in a state of suspended animation as I abandoned a lifetime of aimless career-drifting to become a teacher.
I recall a tweet from last summer that contemptuously — and quite rightly — dismissed those celebrities describing their well-remunerated appearances on Strictly… or its ilk as a journey. The Tour de France, that’s a journey, the tweet said.
So I’m reluctant to describe the last 10-or-so months as a journey, or indeed — and worse — a rollercoaster, but for once those most worn of metaphors seem most apt. It has been a time of incredible highs punctuated by exhausting, mind- and bone-numbing lows, of re-learning who I am and what I can achieve, and of falling in love with going to work. I certainly never thought that would happen.
Unfortunately music had to be an afterthought, squeezed into car journeys, accompanied by road and engine noise, often only half listened to. That may be why the last 12 months seem to have been rather less engaging than previous years; little has startled me. It’s old stagers’ records I’ve looked forward to the most, bands who’ve graced these pages many times before. So where better to mark this blog’s return, however brief that may be before the real work starts in September.
Regular readers may remember that I consider Cinerama’s third and, until this year, final LP, Torino as second only to Joy Division’s Closer in the list of the all-time greatest LPs of all time. So you can imagine my excitement when the band’s driving force, singer, guitarist and songwriter David Gedge, announced the return of the band after a 10-year hiatus, during which he’d revived his original band, The Wedding Present.
Before the new record saw the light of day, appetites were whetted by the release of a third compilation of Cinerama singles and unreleased recordings. Seven Wonders of the World includes tracks that have featured here before, not least the cover of the best Bond theme from the best Bond film, but amongst the previously unreleased material was this gem.
Cinerama // This isn’t What it Looks Like // CD
OK, so it’s not up to the Himalayan heights of Torino, but more than good enough to put an extra skip in my heartbeat ahead of the new record. We knew not to expect more new songs, since Gedge had revealed that the new record would be a Cinerama version of the Wedding Present’s most recent LP, Valentina. It would be a musical quid pro quo, Gedge having recorded the last set of Cinerama songs as the Wedding Present, on the outstanding Take Fountain LP.
But wasn’t what I expected. In place of the sweeping cinematics that had characterised the Cinerama sound, Valentina was recorded, or re-recorded if you like, with Spanish musicians, the result more mariachi than Morricone. More than one reviewer has described it as a record for fans of the band. I think it’s a little more than that, with the re-envisioning of the songs more than enough to give the record an identity of its own. And in the case of two of the tracks, coincidentally two that sound least-obviously Spanish, Gedge and his new Spanish friends have improved on the original.
Cinerama // Stop Thief & Mystery Date // iTunes
Rarely does a year go by without a new record by The Fall and 2015 is no exception. Mark E Smith & Co. released their thirty-first studio LP, a remarkable achievement by any standards. It is, of course, recognisably and uniquely The Fall, which means that fans will love it, most people will hate it. Their loss.
The Fall // Quit iPhone // iTunes
Extensively as The Fall and Cinerama have appeared hereabouts, neither has been seen nor heard as often as Wirral’s finest. Since the turn of the century, Half Man Half Biscuit have released an LP every three years and 2014 was no exception to that trend. Urge for Offal is their fourteenth offering and sits neatly alongside its immediate predecessors, 90 Bisodol (Crimond) and CSI: Ambleside. It continues to exhibit Nigel Blackwell’s unique take on life in Britain, while perhaps lacking the richer humour and musical dexterity of the some of the earlier records, notably 2005’s Achtung Bono.
Nonetheless, there is so much to love in the lyrics, chronicled as ever by the admirably diligent Chris Rand. There really is nothing quite like a bit of crazy golf with a Swedish couple you’ve befriended.
Half Man Half Biscuit // Westward Ho! Massive Letdown // iTunes
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